Unfair Assessments - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1782312

Unfair Assessments

In a recent editorial, The New York Times wrote, “Local governments are failing at the basic task of accurately assessing property values, and there is a clear and striking pattern: More expensive properties are undervalued. … The result is that wealthy homeowners get a big tax break while less affluent homeowners are paying a higher price for the same public services.”

I made the same argument, almost word for word, when the Southampton Town Board decided to reassess properties on an annual basis. I believe the Times correctly points out that the maladministration of property taxation negatively impacts minority neighborhoods; however, I also believe that reasonably priced homes in all neighborhoods are negatively impacted.

The Times also points out that homestead exemptions can help. However, in my opinion, homestead exemptions simply mask the problem. A second home can be converted into a primary residence to take advantage of a homestead exemption, and I know of at least one homeowner who converted his residence to a business after former President Trump capped state and local tax deductions. That change in designation allowed the homeowner to continue to deduct taxes.

On top of that, Southampton has something like 15 different school districts, each with a different tax rate. So the impact of a homestead deduction will impact each community differently.

In my opinion, Southampton’s assessment methodology isn’t understood. For example, the town may increase an assessment but a homeowner’s tax can go down. On the other hand, the town can decrease an assessment but the tax will go up.

That’s because a homeowner’s tax burden is based on the relationship of that home to every other home in the community. If a homeowner’s assessment goes down by 10 percent and every other assessment goes down by 20 percent, the homeowner whose assessment decreased by 10 percent may wind up paying more taxes to offset the loss in revenue from the 20 percent reductions.

Susan Cerwinski

East Quogue